Despite occasional remarks that progress is being made on budget negotiations, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) have still not come to an agreement. However, at least the relationship between Whitmer and Shirkey seems less rocky than it was last month.
Before the Legislature went on its annual hunting break last month, the three leaders had forged a compromise on supplemental Fiscal Year 2020 spending to restore some of the cuts in the budget.
But Shirkey walked away after Whitmer wouldn’t agree to give up her power to shift funds on the State Administrative Board — something she did after the GOP Legislature passed budgets in September without her input.
“We haven’t taken any of the proposals off the table … including the ones that are involved in the statutory Administrative Board changes,” Shirkey told reporters on the state Senate floor after session Tuesday.
After very little movement either way, Whitmer agreed to insert boilerplate language limiting some of her state administrative board transfer powers into the current supplemental spending bill. But Shirkey has insisted that she permanently give up the power to transfer funds using executive powers.
“The conversation has been vigorous and robust. And I think there’s a way, a pathway forward, at least with the speaker and I. We’ll see whether or not our governor can get on board with that,” Shirkey said.
Meanwhile, at an event 70 miles away, Whitmer offered her own remarks about the possibility of pushing through a supplemental.
“All of the changes that I had to do to make the budget work, we can address all of those things,” Whitmer told reporters Tuesday, after speaking at the fifth annual “Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault” summit at Eastern Michigan University.
“So we’ll see what the Legislature does, but I’m really trying to convince them that this is the right thing to do,” Whitmer said.
Back at the Capitol, Shirkey also answered questions about the state of his relationship with Whitmer. Their working relationship had already been contentious, but reached a boiling point last month when Shirkey was quoted in a Hillsdale Collegian article as describing Whitmer and some members of the Democratic caucus as “on the batshit crazy spectrum.”
Shirkey originally defended his comments, but issued an apology later the same day and said that he had apologized to the governor personally.
When asked whether his comments at Hillsdale have affected his relationship with Whitmer, Shirkey said, “She and I had a very good meeting yesterday, one-on-one. So all the words that need to be said have been said.”
Shirkey also was asked about another statement he made at Hillsdale College last month, where he had remarked that he was “too old for Vietnam and too young for everything else, so I had to find some other way to serve.”
The U.S. conscription period for the Vietnam War lasted from 1947 to 1973; the last draft call was on Dec. 7, 1972, and the authority to induct expired the following June. Shirkey was born on Dec. 5, 1954 (he turns 65 this Thursday), meaning that he was 18 years old in the winter of 1972 during the Vietnam War draft and technically eligible to be called into military service. However, Shirkey said that he barely missed the cutoff date when the government stopped calling young men for service.
“My draft number was No. 5. And then they pulled the draft that year,” Shirkey said.
“Actually, it was No. 7,” he added.
Advance reporter Allison Donahue contributed to this story.